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Angels’ Loss Leaves Lachemann Burning

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There’s sweater weather, earthquake weather and, on a 91-degree afternoon at Anaheim Stadium, home-run weather.

Then again, the Oakland Athletics hit eight homers on a cool evening Thursday, so maybe the simple explanation is that the Angels’ pitching isn’t so hot.

The A’s chalked up three more homers Saturday, tied a major league record by hitting 18 in a four-game span and tormented the Angel staff for the third consecutive game in an 11-9 victory before 26,565.

The loss, the Angels’ fourth in a row, troubled Manager Marcel Lachemann so much he held a 35-minute team meeting to discuss the club’s erratic play.

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The Angels are back to the .500 mark, 8 1/2 games behind American League West-leading Texas, after moving to five games over .500 and five games back on June 20.

Lachemann wanted to make it clear that such inconsistent performances are the root of the Angels’ lackluster play as the team approaches the midpoint of the season.

“If you told me before the season that at [this] point we would be 40-40 and asked if I would be happy with that, I’d say, ‘No,’ ” Lachemann said. “I think the expectations were not unrealistic when we started the spring. We felt we had a chance to win it. I still think we do.”

Running into a hot-hitting team like the A’s has only heightened Lachemann’s frustration and spotlighted the Angels’ inability to maintain a consistent course.

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After winning 11 of 12, including seven in a row, the Angels have lost seven of nine.

“We’ve run through streaks pitching-wise,” Lachemann said. “The same pitchers not more than a week ago, were giving up nothing.”

Lachemann was speaking of Shawn Boskie, the starter in Thursday’s 18-2 debacle, Chuck Finley, Friday’s starter, and Jason Grimsley, who started Saturday.

Oakland dispatched Grimsley in the midst of a four-run fifth inning that enabled the A’s to rally from a five-run deficit. Grimsley gave up six runs on six hits, including a two-run homer by Terry Steinbach in the second and a three-run homer by Jason Giambi in the fifth.

Rich Monteleone struggled in relief of Grimsley, giving up the go-ahead runs. Chuck McElroy was fine. Troy Percival then gave up a three-run homer to Geronimo Berroa, and Oakland led, 11-7, in the eighth.

Like the A’s other homers, there was little doubt about Berroa’s 408-foot drive over the center-field fence.

“With a guy like that, there’s no way you can go up there looking for a breaking ball,” Berroa said of facing Percival. “Not from a guy like that. He made a mistake with me today. That one was hanging. I couldn’t miss that one.”

Steinbach and Giambi didn’t miss against Grimsley.

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“Two pitches cost me five runs,” Grimsley said. “I make the pitches, I win.”

It looked pretty good for a while. The Angels came back from a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the bottom of the second, two coming on catcher Pat Borders’ two-run homer. Borders’ bases-empty shot to start the fourth got the Angels rolling toward a fourth-run inning and a 7-2 lead.

Bu it didn’t last. Oakland countered with four in the fifth and the Angels never recovered, seemingly stunned by the turn of events.

It shouldn’t have come as a shock that Giambi would homer. Seven of his past eight hits have been home runs. Plus, the A’s have hit 55 homers this month and lead the majors with 126 this year. They are on pace to break the 1961 New York Yankees’ big league record of 240 in a season.

“The balls carry really well here,” Oakland Manager Art Howe said. “Some of them wouldn’t come down. This is a pretty good hitting ballpark, to say the least.”

If the Angels did one smart thing it was that they didn’t give Mark McGwire much to hit, walking him four times in five plate appearances.

On the other hand, the Angels couldn’t seem to handle Giambi or Berroa.

“Hitting in front of McGwire they’re not going to be in a hurry to walk me to get to him,” said Giambi, who hit his 16th homer this season. “Looking back [on his recent hot streak], there have been a lot of balls in the zone.

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“And, especially in the daytime, the ball flies here.”


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